Two Canadian men detained in China have still not been told what charges they may face, Canadian legislators said after meetings with Chinese officials on Monday.
Ottawa is demanding China immediately free Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were picked up after Canadian authorities arrested a senior Chinese executive on a US arrest warrant in early December.
Senator Joseph Day, one of the Canadian legislators, said the group had reiterated the government’s concerns in what he called a very frank meeting with Chinese officials in Shanghai.
“The gist of the message is that the executive branch of Canada has asked for their immediate release,” Day told the CBC after the encounter.
“They haven’t been informed of what charges there might be against them, they haven’t had open access to their lawyers. We told them [the Chinese side] that by any international standard that is not fair,” he added.
Day said Chinese officials had demanded to know why Canadian police had arrested Huawei Technologies co-chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in early December.
Beijing insists the charges against Meng be dropped but Canada, which was acting on a US extradition request, says it cannot interfere with the judicial process.
Although Canada says China has made no specific link between the detentions and Meng’s arrest, experts and former diplomats say they have no doubt Beijing is using the cases of Kovrig and Spavor to pressure Ottawa.
The China Daily newspaper on Monday published a commentary saying Canada “could lose the trust and cooperation of most developing countries” over the matter.
“By continuing to follow the US, either passively or actively, Canada will eventually harm its national interests,” said the commentary by Li Qingsi, a professor on international studies at Renmin University.
Asked whether the talks had improved the prospects of the two detained Canadians, Day relied: “I think the fact we had an open and frank discussion … creates opportunities.“
The Canadian visit was arranged before Meng’s detention.
The office of Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week, Canada revealed that 13 of its citizens have been detained in China since Meng’s arrest.
“At least” eight of those 13 have since been released, a Canadian government statement said, without disclosing what charges if any had been laid.